Toronto Maple Leafs: 5 Players Who Benefit from a Late Start to the Season

Jon ReidCorrespondent IIOctober 18, 2012

Toronto Maple Leafs: 5 Players Who Benefit from a Late Start to the Season

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    While it remains a possibility that the NHL lockout could still wipe out the 2012-13 regular season in its entirety, this week's proposal from the NHL may help settle the collective bargaining agreement issues once and for all.

    With that in mind, should a resolution be attained in the near future, the regular season will still be played, but would start almost a month behind schedule, on November 2.

    To some, this may seem like a negative, as the players will have to play a full 82 games in a shorter period of time, but there are certain cases where this may actually prove to be beneficial.

    Here are the five Toronto Maple Leafs players that will benefit most from the extra month off.

Mikhail Grabovski

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    After signing a massive contract extension last season, the pressure will undoubtedly be put on Mikhail Grabovski to perform like a $5.5 million center.

    With the lockout continuing, Grabovski has the chance to spend a few weeks playing in Russia's KHL to get himself ready for the potential 2012-13 season.

    While Leafs training camp and the preseason would have also given Grabovski a chance to get round into form, he would not always be playing full games against top-tier talent.

    At least in the KHL he's getting a chance to play meaningful games on a regular basis, and he still has the chance to match up against some NHL talent.

Nikolai Kulemin

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    Much like Grabovski, playing a few weeks in the KHL can't be anything but good (barring an injury, of course) for Nikolai Kulemin, who struggled mightily in 2011-2012, tallying just seven goals.

    With Kulemin still being fairly young, playing a few extra games overseas and then 82 games in a shorter period of time shouldn't be too taxing on the Russian winger.

    Hopefully for the Leafs, Kulemin can use his time in the KHL to work out any kinks that may still be lingering from last year so he can return to notching 30-plus goals again this season. 

Matt Frattin

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    For a guy like Matt Frattin, the NHL lockout poses a different sort of opportunity.

    With the Leafs having an abundance of top-six wingers on their roster, competition may be stiff for a young gun like Frattin.

    Having the chance to play meaningful professional hockey may just give him the edge he needs to make the roster of the parent club.

    Very few Leafs elected to head overseas to play during the lockout, so while some may be gathering rust, Frattin, who is recovering from a knee injury suffered during the AHL postseason with the Marlies, is getting himself ready to make a viable push to play a full season with Toronto and potentially work his way into one of the top two lines.

Nazem Kadri

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    If this were a ranked list, it is very possible that Nazem Kadri would be No. 1.

    The pressure surrounding the seventh overall pick of the 2009 NHL entry draft has been immense from the moment he was drafted, and it hasn't subsided for over three years.

    Whether it's the media calling him out for not being ready for full-time NHL duty or his own coach in the AHL calling him out over his physique and athleticism heading into training camp, Nazem Kadri has faced more scrutiny as a prospect than most people could ever imagine.

    This lockout will buy Kadri some time to get back into shape with the Marlies and fine-tune his game so he can (hopefully) work his way to playing his first full season with the Leafs.

    After all he's been through, here's to hoping he does just that.

James Reimer

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    The numbers speak for themselves.

    When James Reimer has been 100 percent healthy, he wins hockey games.

    Whether it be his breakout performance in the latter half of the 2010-11 season that nearly propelled the Maple Leafs into their first post-lockout playoff appearance or the first few games of last season before he was elbowed, Reimer's proven he can win hockey games when healthy.

    After returning from his head injury last season, he didn't look like the same player.

    He was too deep in his crease, seeming almost too timid to come out and challenge opposing skaters.

    With a full offseason to recover and now another few weeks of rest on top of that, Leafs fans should have no reason to believe that Reimer will struggle again should this season get going in November.

    If Reimer can get back to winning hockey games at a steady clip and the offense continues to rack up goals like they have been over the past few seasons, Toronto may finally get to see playoff hockey at the Air Canada Centre.